The day of ‘Basketball Bonanza’ in our state was capped in an Overtime thriller at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the Class 4A State Championship Game. Mere minutes away, at Lucas Oil Stadium, there was an incredibly exciting Overtime game that featured a buzzer-beating finish in the NCAA Tournament National Semifinal between Gonzaga and UCLA.
The stage at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, however, served as the climax of the 2020-2021 IHSAA high school basketball season. The Class 4A State Championship Game featured an all-MIC showdown between Carmel and Lawrence North.
The Wildcats roared to an early 6-0 lead, capped with a DJ Hughes dunk. After a Carmel timeout, the Greyhounds responded with an 11-2 run to end the first quarter.
The Wildcats made a concerted effort to get the ball into the paint throughout the night, as all made field goals in the first half for LN were in the paint. The game remained close throughout the half, and Carmel held a narrow 23-22 lead at the break.
The third quarter, though low-scoring, featured big plays on both sides, as Shamar Avance and CJ Gunn provided the offensive output for LN. Carmel’s Peter Suder provided two baskets for the Greyhounds. The biggest play of the quarter was made by Brian Waddell, who threw down a big dunk, got fouled, and converted the free throw.
The fourth quarter featured a 7-0 LN run to open the quarter. The Wildcats were able to get baskets from Gunn, Hughes, and Donaven McCulley, while Waddell knocked down a big three late. Waddell converted a two, and then Gunn responded with two free throws to tie it at 38. The score was tied at 38, and we were treated to additional basketball.
Connor Gioia made a three in the Overtime, and Josh Whack made a FT, providing Carmel with a 47-43. Gunn countered with a big-time three, under heavy duress, to cut the Greyhounds’ lead to one.
Carmel was able to convert free throws late in Overtime, and emerged with a 51-46 victory to capture the 2021 Class 4A State title.
Keying the Carmel victory was the play of Josh Whack. Whack’s defense on Shamar Avance, in addition to being able to convert several free throws in Overtime, were instrumental for the Greyhounds.
Waddell showed a diverse set of skills, converting multiple threes, handling the ball well, and showing an explosive burst in making a big-time play in converting the dunk, arguably the play of the game.
Though he struggled from the floor (6-of-18), LN’s CJ Gunn led the Wildcats with 18 points and provided multiple examples of his talented skill set. I was impressed with his ability to glide/slash and get into the paint. Gunn also flashed some defensive ability, as he used his length and quickness to block a Carmel three-point attempt.
The 2020-2021 season is now in the books. A large amount of credit is due to the IHSAA and its member schools for navigating through these unprecedented times and successfully completing the season. Let us also credit the administrators, coaches, fans, and student-athletes.